Most of the time, my self-esteem is pretty nonexistent. I have a hard time looking in the mirror and seeing something other than a collection of flaws and imperfections. Since becoming a mom, I've found that it's too easy to feel less than perfect. Cue my last pregnancy — a dumpster fire from start to finish. By the end of that 40 weeks I felt like the exact opposite of a badass. You wouldn't have noticed, though, if you saw the ways my husband showed me he was in awe of me during childbirth.
The way my partner was engaged, supportive, and encouraging during childbirth made such a huge difference. When I saw his version of me reflected back in his eyes, I saw a beautiful, capable, rock star, warrior goddess who was totally going to conquer labor and childbirth, no matter what. From the moment I was induced und until I finally stopped pushing, he was there, encouraging me with his words, stolen glances, hand-holding, and advocating for me with the medical staff. I knew I could bring our baby into the world, even though there were more than a few moments when I felt like giving up. I honestly don’t know if I could’ve done it without him. Well, I could have, but it would have completely sucked.
When I ask my partner about it, though, he doesn't see his actions as anything out of the ordinary. It was what I deserved, and what all laboring parents deserve as they approach labor and delivery. Labor is awe-inspiring, and good partners find little ways to relay that message, like the following:
He Smiled At Me
I husband smiles with his whole face, starting with his eyes and those little wrinkles he gets at the corners. His smile honestly reflected back a version of me that was strong and awe-inspiring.
He Held My Hand
When my husband held my hand during labor, it calmed me when I otherwise would have totally freaked out. It made me feel stronger than I was. As he stroked my hand with his thumb, he showed me that he was in awe of what I was doing.
He Took My Picture
I reluctantly agreed to let my husband take my picture during labor and delivery. When he showed me the candid shots of me, as he saw me, I knew he believed in me.
He Told Me I Was Strong
My husband was unwavering in his belief that I would get through labor and childbirth like a boss. In fact, he annoyingly kept repeated how strong I was. I didn't feel strong, to be sure. I felt like a total mess, actually, but when someone you trust repeats the same phrase over and over again, it starts to rub off on you.
He Encouraged Me
When I thought I wouldn't be able to persist and make it through labor and childbirth, his words of encouragement mattered. I wish I had told him that.
He Claimed He Couldn't Do It
Not only did my husband encourage me to get an epidural as soon as humanly possible after I was checked into labor and delivery, he also told me how he couldn't imagine going through pregnancy or birth himself, epidural or not. Acknowledging that what I was enduring was something he could never experience, let alone fathom, made me feel validated in my thoughts, feelings, and emotions.
My husband doesn't remember crying when our son was born, but he totally did. As I saw tears well up in his eyes, through the kaleidoscope of tears in mine, and we both were overcome with emotion.
Rubbed My Back & Forehead
There's so much power in touch, and someone's touch can tell you so much. My husband gently stroked my face and back during labor, letting me know how he felt about me in those moments.
He Told Jokes
My husband has this adorable habit of cracking jokes when he’s nervous, or when he doesn’t know what to say. I usually tease him mercilessly when he drops a "dad joke," or, honestly, I end up feeling a little embarrassed. During labor, though, his jokes made me feel so warm and safe.
He Snuck In Food
Between the two of us, my husband is the one who relentlessly follows the rules. So imagine my shock when he snuck food into the delivery room so I could have sustenance to fuel the hard work of birthing a 9-pound baby.
He Asked Me What I Needed
My husband focused entirely on me during labor, asking me what I needed at every step of the way and consistently trying to accommodate those needs. He was pretty much willing to do anything to make the experience more bearable.
He Caught My Vomit
My husband had no desire to "catch" our baby or cut the cord. He did, however, grab a vomit bag and catch my puke when I vomited during labor. And not only did he catch my vomit, but he was smiling and telling me it would be OK the entire time. That's love, people.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.